Please click here if you do not see a Nav Frame at left and Header Frame above - you'll need them!


By Tom Sloper
March 2, 2008

Column #355
American Mah-Jongg (2007 NMJL card). Anatomy of a Charleston. Actually, two.

1. What do you do when you have just one pair, and one joker? I look for ways to make use of the pair. In this case, evens. Quite a few even tiles. And the 45D can be used to make a Consec. hand with the pair, so I'll keep those for now. The E is unlikely to go with them, but there's no need to pass both winds right now. I pass 1B 9C N.

2. So far the plan is going OK. Now I pass E 7B and either 1C or 5D (flip a coin - I pass 1C).

3. Is there a hand that can use eights in two suits? Yes, the last one in 2468, but that one wants me to have a pair of fours in the same suit as the twos. Tall order. I can pass N and 5D for sure, and - oh, I can blind pass.

4. Nothing happens in the last passes; same stuff still going around. After the Charleston, here's what I'm left with. My main targets now are 2468 #s 2, 3, and 7, and S&P #4. None of them are looking good. The Charleston went well in terms of cementing a family, but winning this hand will be a long shot.

5. New deal now. The 45-45 pattern is a start for Consec. #3 or, together with the flowers, S&P #3, but the FFEW0G is a good start for Winds # 4. Or the EEW0G could start me on Winds #6. The Winds options are less risky than S&P, and the Consec. hand is too far. So I pass 2B 4D 5B. No winds come in the first pass, so I pass numbers across.

6. Better for Winds #6 now. I pass 158D. I get R in the first left. I pass numbers in the 2nd left, get more numbers, and that's how the remainder of the Charleston goes.

7. After the Charleston here's what I've got. I have seven non-jokers towards my target hand, Winds #6. This Charleston didn't seem to go as well as the first (only received two usable tiles), but the deal started with a clearer target hand, and the Charleston put me even closer to it. I stand an excellent chance of winning this one.


Click the entries in the header frame, above, to read other columns.

Question or comment about this column? Email and the discussion will be posted on the Mah-Jongg Q&A Bulletin Board.

Haven't ordered the 2008 NMJL card yet? Read FAQ 7i.

Need rules for American mah-jongg? Tom Sloper's book, The Red Dragon & The West Wind, can be ordered through AND see FAQ 19 for fine points of the American rules (and commonly misunderstood rules). AND get the booklet from the NMJL (see FAQ 3).

Jay Firestone of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles has posted a nice video about a young man (himself) learning to play American mah-jongg. You can see it at

© 2008 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved.